Vintage Drag Racing, Goodguys Ignite Pacific Raceways!
No track in the western U.S. has a more decorated history than Pacific Raceways, formerly known worldwide as Seattle International Raceway. Under the 1970s stewardship of Bill Doner and Steve Evans’ International Raceway Parks Corporation, this track had events so epic they’re forever etched in drag racing lore. The 64 Funny Car shows, that time Don Prudhomme’s Hot Wheels Cuda took flight here and the topper – infamous 60s adult movie star Linda Lovelace serving as trophy queen during a giant funny car race. Ed McCulloch won by the way! The place went berserk on numerous occasions as rock bands blared throughout the pits, Doner getting everyone whipped into a frenzy on the mic. Now, Pacific Raceways is home to some of the best Vintage Drag Racing anywhere in the country.
You feel like you’re going on a camping trip when coming here. Heading out through the foothills southwest of Seattle, you snake through tall pines to get to the main entrance. Once inside the facility, the pines grow even thicker and just when you think you’re going to arrive at a lake, the massive pit area and racetrack come into view offering one of the most oxygen-rich racing environments known to man.
The place has always been heralded for “good air” (air-density) and monster traction. Track records fell on a routine basis “back in the day” when local legends Jerry “The King” Ruth, Herm Petersen, “240” Gordy Bonin, Ed “The Ace” McCulloch, Jim Green and Hank Johnson pounded the pavement up here. Jim Rockstad ran the joint when Doner and Evans bailed out in the late 70s holding down the fort for over three decades before the facility was acquired by the Fiorito family took over ten years ago. While the Fiorito’s have done an awesome job updating the facility and giving Northwestern Speed Demons a place to routinely race, it was Rockstad who helped Goodguys late founder Gary “Goodguy” Meadors establish the Goodguys Friday Night Vintage Drags here way back in July of 1988. The races have been held annually since ’88, being rained out just twice in those 30 years.
Popular right from the get-go, the Goodguys Friday Night Vintage Drags serves as a weekend kickoff for the main event – Goodguys Pacific Northwest Nationals rod & custom event down at the Puyallup Fairgrounds. And kick it off they do. More like blow the lid off! Huge crowds rolled through the forested pits for a chance at a close encounter with one of today’s nitro burning retro Funny Cars. In fact, Doner himself is still involved having recently been named chairman of the United Nitro Funny Cars Association.
During this year’s raucous Friday night affair, known as the Goodguys Northwest Nitro Shootout presented by Bucky’s Auto Service Centers and CP Carillo, no less than nine of the best NFC’s in the nation smoked the slicks for a chance at some fat cash. Leading the field was Tacoma’s favorite son – Bucky Austin’s Bardahl-backed ’69 Camaro driven by Bobby Cottrell. Cottrell, based in Southern California, ripped the clocks for Low ET and top speed of round one clicking off a 5.64/258mph blast but went even quicker in round two with a 5.61! A special treat for fans was the return of the “Teacher’s Pet” ’69 Camaro of patriarch Gary Densham. Gary filled in behind the wheel for his son Steven and was valiant with a 5.811 @ 248mph to earn him a berth in the Chicago-Style Funny Car final against Cottrell. While it was awesome seeing the elder Densham return to his former car, Cottrell showed no mercy in the final runoff easily dispatching a tire-smoking Densham with a 5.77 @ 205 shutting down early.
Other plastic fantastic burning the sweet sauce included perennial hard-runner, Mark “Mr Explosive” Sanders (5.85), Tim Boychuk (5.810), John Weaver (5.84), Chris Davis (6.97), Dennis Taylor (7.11) and Wally Giava.
Yet more nitro cars shared the stage with the floppers as Bobby and Tyler Hilton’s Chevy-powered Top Fuel dragster towed all the way from Cincinnati, Ohio to take on Canada’s Phil Rustowski. Hilton’s 6.01/242mph charge was the deciding factor in their match. Then the world’s most famous Fuel Altered, Rich Guasco’s “Pure Hell” squared off against Brian Hall’s “Tramp” giving the fans all the nitro they could stand. Even though Guasco’s roadster (with Brian Hope steering) ran quicker in the opener (6.23/234mph), Hall ran quicker than Pure Hell in the money round clicking off a 6.26/218mph blast to Hope’s red-lighting 13.16/90mph effort.
In other signature action, Garrett Richards of Tacoma ran a 6.009/207mph blast in his Pro Mod Shelby Mustang to defeat the ’59 Corvette of Mike Weiss whose best lap of 6.76/210mph fell short.
As the clock approached the 11 pm curfew, the action was concluded in all but the Street Machine sportsman classes. Down to the finals before the track had to pull the plug, the finalists splitting the purse evenly. Other class winner’s included Norm Brandt (COMP), Greg Kent (Hot Rod I) and Dan Bennett (Hot Rod 2).
The next Goodguys Vintage Drag Race on the schedule, the 6th annual Nostalgia Nationals is scheduled for October 13-15 at Beech Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky. We will have our photographers on hand to capture all that action.